I’ve heard it said that everyone who stays in the LDS church is a convert and I believe that 100 percent. Although I was born into an LDS family in Utah, grew up going to church, and was baptized at eight years old, it took a lot of trials and a period of inactivity before I found my testimony and was truly converted.
A Series of Firsts
I was a typical Mormon girl up until I was 14 years old: I fell in love with a beautiful Samoan member in my ward. In LDS culture, we are supposed to wait until we’re 16 to date, but 14-year-old Sarah was love stricken. On our first Valentine’s Day together, he put roses in my shower and Hershey’s kisses all over my bedroom floor with a note that said he kissed the ground I walked on and showered me with roses. He wrote me my first song, he taught me to play ukulele, and we took tae kwon do together. It was exactly the cheesy romantic stuff that I loved.
Although I loved this boy, our age caused our ward and neighborhood to take up arms against us. Some of my younger sibling’s friends were no longer allowed to come over to our homes, our leaders would call us into impromptu meetings to chat about the law of chastity, and people made rude comments about my modesty. This was the first time I felt discriminated against in the Church. Even our parents were under a lot of scrutiny, but despite this, they loved us together. We dated for two years and in the end he was also my first heartbreak. But the hardships I went through in my young relationship left a bad taste in my mouth when it came to some parts of the LDS culture.
Losing My Testimony
A few years later at college, I was attending a student ward just off campus. A common theme in our testimony meetings was how difficult it is to come to church without our parents nagging us. This slowly became my truth. Growing up, I relied heavily on the testimonies of my parents. I didn’t realize it, but I forgot the meaning of the sacrament, the importance of tithing, and the blessings of going to the temple. The testimony that I once had fell apart because it was never truly really my own.
The college dating scene really tested my faith. I dated returned missionaries, but the “RM” title never made the man. One man was overly confident because he was convinced he would be an apostle one day, another told me that I didn’t love God enough for him, and another couldn’t decide between me and another girl he was dating. In addition, several men weren’t interested in a serious relationship. I started to think that there was something wrong with me because LDS guys didn’t seem to think I was good enough, which led to a struggle of self-worth.
After going through so many failed relationships, I decided to date outside my faith. Non-Mormon guys seemed to think I was funny, cute, and worth their time, and I finally felt wanted. This feeling of acceptance made me start questioning whether or not the LDS church was where I would find my future husband; maybe I didn’t want to be LDS anymore.
Hitting Rock Bottom
My junior year of college I started dating a man who was the farthest thing from God. I got caught in an abusive cycle as he cheated on me, used me, manipulated me, and made me feel like I deserved it. After seven months with him, I finally walked away from the relationship.
I continued to date outside my religion and value structure. I dated men who had left the Church, men with serious alcohol issues, men with incredibly loose morals, and men who didn’t value me. I would spend nights crying alone in my room because I was too depressed to leave my home. I felt broken. I didn’t know where I went wrong, I didn’t know where to find peace. I had hit rock bottom.
A Year Without Men
I spent Christmas break with my family at our favorite vacation spot in Virginia. By surrounding myself with the people who love me most, I remembered what it is like to feel loved, I remembered the importance of families in the plan of salvation. I started to remember the pieces of my testimony that I had left behind. It was just what I needed to get back on track.
All of these realizations led me to my New Year’s resolution; a year without men. Instead of chasing after men, I would work on myself and my relationship with God. I would work towards paying my tithing and getting my temple recommend again. I had started feeling hope again after so many months of depression. Although my friends didn’t believe I could go so long without dating, I made a plan with one of my best friends, David, to help me avoid being tempted to contact one of my old flames.
New Years Eve arrived and David picked me up to head to the celebration downtown. We had a fun night, and as the ball was dropping David asked me to be his New Year’s kiss. I didn’t know how to respond, especially because he knew about my year without men. I didn’t think of him as more than a friend, but I had to decide fast so I decided my resolution could begin a few seconds later than anticipated. We kissed.
Falling for A Non-Member
I should have known that my first kiss with David wouldn’t be my last. My year without men turned into two weeks without men, or rather, man: I fell in love with my best friend. He was Catholic, so I decided to bring up religion right away–I explained that I was working on my relationship with my Heavenly Father, and I wanted to spend time at each other’s churches. We were both exploring and making God the center of it all.
Quickly, we both started to feel a stronger sense of community within my LDS ward. We slowly started attending the student ward more frequently than we were attending his Catholic mass. It wasn’t long until I asked David if he would be willing to take the missionary lessons to help him better understand the teachings of the Church. Reluctantly, he agreed.
I didn’t realize how much I didn’t understand about the church until I took the missionary lessons with David. I couldn’t name all Ten Commandments, I didn’t remember all of the details of the plan of salvation, and I hadn’t read the Book of Mormon in years. The more I read, learned, and prayed with David, the more I found my own testimony. I felt Heavenly Father’s love for me again, and His forgiveness for leaving Him behind.
After months of lessons strengthening both mine and David’s testimonies, David decided to get baptized in August of 2016. We both got our temple recommends shortly after and I was reminded of the blessings of the temple. I remember talking to my bishop in my temple recommend interview and telling him that I didn’t feel like a new person, I just felt like my old self that I had missed for a while. I felt a happiness and peace that can only come with being close to the Spirit. Temple attendance has become one of our favorite activities, and we make sure to attend the temple in every state and country we travel to as well.
David and I made the decision to get married in the Salt Lake temple in September. I am so grateful to have found such a wonderful man for my eternal partner. Growing up, I never thought I’d be the lost lamb, but I’m grateful for my trials. Without them, I would never have realized the power of the atonement, or been able to share my new testimony with the love of my life. Conversion doesn’t just happen once, but over and over again as we strive to remain close to God and share our faith with others.